For an online critique group that submits critique pages ahead of time, members need adequate time to complete their critiques before the critique session. Our group assigns pages to other writers to critique by 2:00 PM on Sunday for a online video session Tuesday evening from 6:30 PM to 9:00 PM. Our group leader emails an assignment notification to those attending. She also posts a link to the Google Spreadsheet that contains the assignments in our Facebook group. See below for an example spreadsheet, containing a matrix of critique assignments. This spreadsheet resides in the same folder where the writers uploaded their stories.
Copy a Critique Assignment
Above is a simulated list of stories needing a critique. Assume that our intrepid critiquer, named Sam, has been tasked with reviewing Attack from Zorkon written by another member of the group named John. In reality, a critiquer might be assigned several (usually about three) documents to review.
Sam will copy the Attack of Zorkon submission he’s been assigned first, then rename the copy with his name at the beginning of the new file name to identify his critique. See below for an example of a copied submission.
Review the Starting Page of the Document
Note the header. It should contain information that identifies the number of words and the starting page within the novel. The later is helpful information for knowing where the submission falls within the story as a whole.
Note the author’s comment in red. This is very helpful to orient the critiquer to what previously happened in the story — usually it’s about a paragraph long and more informative than this example.
Note the text in black. That’s what needs to be critiqued.
Add Suggestions to the Submission
The best way to comment on a writer’s piece is to use Suggesting and Commenting within Google Docs. Uploaded pages are not original for the author’s novel, so later the writer can review the critiquer’s comments and handle them as they like. To turn on Suggesting, click on the pen icon (see the red arrow).
“Editing” changes the author’s text (avoid)
“Suggesting” makes reversible changes (use this)
Add a Comment
The easiest way to add a comment in Google Docs is to drag the cursor over the text to highlight it, click on the (+), then enter a comment. Click on the blue “Comment” button to save your suggestion. If you don’t click the button, your comment will only be viewable by you. Comments can be less specific than suggestions and usually address plot, organization or characterization among other possibilities.
After all the suggestions and comments are finished, return to editing mode and add a personal note at the end or beginning of the document. Include what worked well and what might be improved, and end with some encouraging words. We all need that after a barrage of criticism.
R. C. Beckett was given a collection of Fantasy and Science Fiction Magazine as a teenager and read hundreds of the stories — he was hooked and started writing fiction in 2013. He loves to write hard science fiction, but can’t help adding a bit of humor. Publications: “Exit Mars” and “Exit Earth” (available on Amazon). “Exit Pluto”, the third in the Exit series, should be published in late 2020. He lives in Golden Colorado and is a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers. Walking his dog is key to his writing since that’s when he imagines plots for his stories. He also volunteers as a webmaster for non-profit companies including SpecFicWriters.